<br/>They drove by the level road along the valley to a
distance of a few miles, and, reaching Wellbridge,
turned away from the village to the left, and over the
great Elizabethan bridge which gives the place half its
name. Immediately behind it stood the house wherein
they had engaged lodgings, whose exterior features are
so well known to all travellers through the Froom
Valley; once portion of a fine manorial residence, and
the property and seat of a d'Urberville, but since its
partial demolition a farmhouse.
<br/>"Welcome to one of your ancestral mansions!" said Clare
as he handed her down. But he regretted the pleasantry;
it was too near a satire.
<br/>On entering they found that, though they had only
engaged a couple of rooms, the farmer had taken
advantage of their proposed presence during the coming
days to pay a New Year's visit to some friends, leaving
a woman from a neighbouring cottage to minister to
their few wants. The absoluteness of possession
pleased them, and they realized it as the first moment
of their experience under their own exclusive
<br/>But he found that the mouldy old habitation somewhat
depressed his bride. When the carriage was gone they
ascended the stairs to wash their hands, the charwoman
showing the way. On the landing Tess stopped and
<br/>"What's the matter?" said he.
<br/>"Those horrid women!" she answered with a smile.
"How they frightened me."
<br/>He looked up, and perceived two life-size portraits on
panels built into the masonry. As all visitors to the
mansion are aware, these paintings represent women of
middle age, of a date some two hundred years ago, whose
lineaments once seen can never be forgotten. The long
pointed features, narrow eye, and smirk of the one, so
suggestive of merciless treachery; the bill-hook nose,
large teeth, and bold eye of the other suggesting
arrogance to the point of ferocity, haunt the beholder
afterwards in his dreams.
<br/>"Whose portraits are those?" asked Clare of the
<br/>"I have been told by old folk that they were ladies of
the d'Urberville family, the ancient lords of this
manor," she said, "Owing to their being builded into
the wall they can't be moved away."
<br/>The unpleasantness of the matter was that, in addition
to their effect upon Tess, her fine features were
unquestionably traceable in these exaggerated forms.
He said nothing of this, however, and, regretting that
he had gone out of his way to choose the house for
their bridal time, went on into the adjoining room.
The place having been rather hastily prepared for them,
they washed their hands in one basin. Clare touched
hers under the water.
<br/>"Which are my fingers and which are yours?" he said,
looking up. "They are very much mixed."
<br/>"They are all yours," said she, very prettily, and
endeavoured to be gayer than she was. He had not been
displeased with her thoughtfulness on such an occasion;
it was what every sensible woman would show: but Tess
knew that she had been thoughtful to excess, and
struggled against it.
<br/>The sun was so low on that short last afternoon of the
year that it shone in through a small opening and
formed a golden staff which stretched across to her
skirt, where it made a spot like a paint-mark set upon
her. They went into the ancient parlour to tea, and
here they shared their first common meal alone. Such
was their childishness, or rather his, that he found it
interesting to use the same bread-and-butter plate as
herself, and to brush crumbs from her lips with his
own. He wondered a little that she did not enter into
these frivolities with his own zest.
<br/>Looking at her silently for a long time; "She is a dear
dear Tess," he thought to himself, as one deciding on
the true construction of a difficult passage. "Do I
realize solemnly enough how utterly and irretrievably
this little womanly thing is the creature of my good or
bad faith and fortune? I think not. I think I could
not, unless I were a woman myself. What I am in
worldly estate, she is. What I become, she must
become. What I cannot be, she cannot be. And shall I
ever neglect her, or hurt her, or even forget to
consider her? God forbid such a crime!"
<br/>They sat on over the tea-table waiting for their
luggage, which the dairyman had promised to send before
it grew dark. But evening began to close in, and the
luggage did not arrive, and they had brought nothing
more than they stood in. With the departure of the sun
the calm mood of the winter day changed. Out of doors
there began noises as of silk smartly rubbed; the
restful dead leaves of the preceding autumn were
stirred to irritated resurrection, and whirled about
unwillingly, and tapped against the shutters. It soon
began to rain.
<br/>"That cock knew the weather was going to change," said
<br/>The woman who had attended upon them had gone home for
the night, but she had placed candles upon the table,
and now they lit them. Each candle-flame drew towards
<br/>"These old houses are so draughty," continued Angel,
looking at the flames, and at the grease guttering down
the sides. "I wonder where that luggage is. We
haven't even a brush and comb."
<br/>"I don't know," she answered, absent-minded.
<br/>"Tess, you are not a bit cheerful this evening—not at
all as you used to be. Those harridans on the panels
upstairs have unsettled you. I am sorry I brought you
here. I wonder if you really love me, after all?"
<br/>He knew that she did, and the words had no serious intent;
but she was surcharged with emotion, and winced like a
wounded animal. Though she tried not to shed tears, she
could not help showing one or two.
<br/>"I did not mean it!" said he, sorry. "You are worried
at not having your things, I know. I cannot think why
old Jonathan has not come with them. Why, it is seven
o'clock? Ah, there he is!"
<br/>A knock had come to the door, and, there being nobody
else to answer it, Clare went out. He returned to the
room with a small package in his hand.
<br/>"It is not Jonathan, after all," he said.
<br/>"How vexing!" said Tess.
<br/>The packet had been brought by a special messenger, who
had arrived at Talbothays from Emminster Vicarage
immediately after the departure of the married couple,
and had followed them hither, being under injunction to
deliver it into nobody's hands but theirs. Clare
brought it to the light. It was less than a foot long,
sewed up in canvas, sealed in red wax with his father's
seal, and directed in his father's hand to "Mrs Angel
<br/>"It is a little wedding-present for you, Tess," said
he, handing it to her. "How thoughtful they are!"
<br/>Tess looked a little flustered as she took it.
<br/>"I think I would rather have you open it, dearest,"
said she, turning over the parcel. "I don't like to
break those great seals; they look so serious. Please
open it for me!"
<br/>He undid the parcel. Inside was a case of morocco
leather, on the top of which lay a note and a key.
<br/>The note was for Clare, in the following words:
<span class="smallcaps">My dear son</span>—<br/>
<br/>Possibly you have forgotten that on the death of your
godmother, Mrs Pitney, when you were a lad, she—vain,
kind woman that she was—left to me a portion of the
contents of her jewel-case in trust for your wife, if
you should ever have one, as a mark of her affection
for you and whomsoever you should choose. This trust I
have fulfilled, and the diamonds have been locked up at
my banker's ever since. Though I feel it to be a
somewhat incongruous act in the circumstances, I am, as
you will see, bound to hand over the articles to the
woman to whom the use of them for her lifetime will now
rightly belong, and they are therefore promptly sent.
They become, I believe, heirlooms, strictly speaking,
according to the terms of your godmother's will. The
precise words of the clause that refers to this matter
<br/>"I do remember," said Clare; "but I had quite
<br/>Unlocking the case, they found it to contain a
necklace, with pendant, bracelets, and ear-rings; and
also some other small ornaments.
<br/>Tess seemed afraid to touch them at first, but her eyes
sparkled for a moment as much as the stones when Clare
spread out the set.
<br/>"Are they mine?" she asked incredulously.
<br/>"They are, certainly," said he.
<br/>He looked into the fire. He remembered how, when he
was a lad of fifteen, his godmother, the Squire's
wife—the only rich person with whom he had ever come
in contact—had pinned her faith to his success; had
prophesied a wondrous career for him. There had seemed
nothing at all out of keeping with such a conjectured
career in the storing up of these showy ornaments for
his wife and the wives of her descendants. They
gleamed somewhat ironically now. "Yet why?" he asked
himself. It was but a question of vanity throughout;
and if that were admitted into one side of the equation
it should be admitted into the other. His wife was a
d'Urberville: whom could they become better than her?
<br/>Suddenly he said with enthusiasm—
<br/>"Tess, put them on—put them on!" And he turned from
the fire to help her.
<br/>But as if by magic she had already donned
them—necklace, ear-rings, bracelets, and all.
<br/>"But the gown isn't right, Tess," said Clare. "It
ought to be a low one for a set of brilliants like
<br/>"Ought it?" said Tess.
<br/>"Yes," said he.
<br/>He suggested to her how to tuck in the upper edge of
her bodice, so as to make it roughly approximate to the
cut for evening wear; and when she had done this, and
the pendant to the necklace hung isolated amid the
whiteness of her throat, as it was designed to do, he
stepped back to survey her.
<br/>"My heavens," said Clare, "how beautiful you are!"
<br/>As everybody knows, fine feathers make fine birds; a
peasant girl but very moderately prepossessing to the
casual observer in her simple condition and attire
will bloom as an amazing beauty if clothed as a woman
of fashion with the aids that Art can render; while the
beauty of the midnight crush would often cut but a
sorry figure if placed inside the field-woman's wrapper
upon a monotonous acreage of turnips on a dull day. He
had never till now estimated the artistic excellence of
Tess's limbs and features.
<br/>"If you were only to appear in a ball-room!" he said.
"But no—no, dearest; I think I love you best in the
wing-bonnet and cotton-frock—yes, better than in this,
well as you support these dignities."
<br/>Tess's sense of her striking appearance had given her a
flush of excitement, which was yet not happiness.
<br/>"I'll take them off," she said, "in case Jonathan
should see me. They are not fit for me, are they?
They must be sold, I suppose?"
<br/>"Let them stay a few minutes longer. Sell them?
Never. It would be a breach of faith."
<br/>Influenced by a second thought she readily obeyed.
She had something to tell, and there might be help in
these. She sat down with the jewels upon her; and they
again indulged in conjectures as to where Jonathan
could possibly be with their baggage. The ale they had
poured out for his consumption when he came had gone
flat with long standing.
<br/>Shortly after this they began supper, which was already
laid on a side-table. Ere they had finished there was
a jerk in the fire-smoke, the rising skein of which
bulged out into the room, as if some giant had laid his
hand on the chimney-top for a moment. It had been
caused by the opening of the outer door. A heavy step
was now heard in the passage, and Angel went out.
<br/>"I couldn' make nobody hear at all by knocking,"
apologized Jonathan Kail, for it was he at last; "and
as't was raining out I opened the door. I've brought
the things, sir."
<br/>"I am very glad to see them. But you are very late."
<br/>"Well, yes, sir."
<br/>There was something subdued in Jonathan Kail's tone
which had not been there in the day, and lines of
concern were ploughed upon his forehead in addition to
the lines of years. He continued—
<br/>"We've all been gallied at the dairy at what might ha'
been a most terrible affliction since you and your
Mis'ess—so to name her now—left us this a'ternoon.
Perhaps you ha'nt forgot the cock's afternoon crow?"
<br/>"Well, some says it do mane one thing, and some
another; but what's happened is that poor little Retty
Priddle hev tried to drown herself."
<br/>"No! Really! Why, she bade us goodbye with the
<br/>"Yes. Well, sir, when you and your Mis'ess—so to name
what she lawful is—when you two drove away, as I say,
Retty and Marian put on their bonnets and went out; and
as there is not much doing now, being New Year's Eve,
and folks mops and brooms from what's inside 'em,
nobody took much notice. They went on to Lew-Everard,
where they had summut to drink, and then on they vamped
to Dree-armed Cross, and there they seemed to have
parted, Retty striking across the water-meads as if for
home, and Marian going on to the next village, where
there's another public-house. Nothing more was zeed or
heard o' Retty till the waterman, on his way home,
noticed something by the Great Pool; 'twas her bonnet
and shawl packed up. In the water he found her. He
and another man brought her home, thinking a' was dead;
but she fetched round by degrees."
<br/>Angel, suddenly recollecting that Tess was overhearing
this gloomy tale, went to shut the door between the
passage and the ante-room to the inner parlour where
she was; but his wife, flinging a shawl round her, had
come to the outer room and was listening to the man's
narrative, her eyes resting absently on the luggage and
the drops of rain glistening upon it.
<br/>"And, more than this, there's Marian; she's been found
dead drunk by the withy-bed—a girl who hev never been
known to touch anything before except shilling ale;
though, to be sure, 'a was always a good trencher-woman,
as her face showed. It seems as if the maids
had all gone out o' their minds!"
<br/>"And Izz?" asked Tess.
<br/>"Izz is about house as usual; but 'a do say 'a can
guess how it happened; and she seems to be very low in
mind about it, poor maid, as well she mid be. And so
you see, sir, as all this happened just when we was
packing your few traps and your Mis'ess's night-rail
and dressing things into the cart, why, it belated me."
<br/>"Yes. Well, Jonathan, will you get the trunks
upstairs, and drink a cup of ale, and hasten back as
soon as you can, in case you should be wanted?"
<br/>Tess had gone back to the inner parlour, and sat down
by the fire, looking wistfully into it. She heard
Jonathan Kail's heavy footsteps up and down the stairs
till he had done placing the luggage, and heard him
express his thanks for the ale her husband took out to
him, and for the gratuity he received. Jonathan's
footsteps then died from the door, and his cart creaked
<br/>Angel slid forward the massive oak bar which secured
the door, and coming in to where she sat over the
hearth, pressed her cheeks between his hands from
behind. He expected her to jump up gaily and unpack
the toilet-gear that she had been so anxious about, but
as she did not rise he sat down with her in the
firelight, the candles on the supper-table being too
thin and glimmering to interfere with its glow.
<br/>"I am so sorry you should have heard this sad story
about the girls," he said. "Still, don't let it
depress you. Retty was naturally morbid, you know."
<br/>"Without the least cause," said Tess. "While they who
have cause to be, hide it, and pretend they are not."
<br/>This incident had turned the scale for her. They were
simple and innocent girls on whom the unhappiness of
unrequited love had fallen; they had deserved better at
the hands of Fate. She had deserved worse—yet she was
the chosen one. It was wicked of her to take all
without paying. She would pay to the uttermost
farthing; she would tell, there and then. This final
determination she came to when she looked into the
fire, he holding her hand.
<br/>A steady glare from the now flameless embers painted
the sides and back of the fireplace with its colour,
and the well-polished andirons, and the old brass tongs
that would not meet. The underside of the mantel-shelf
was flushed with the high-coloured light, and the legs
of the table nearest the fire. Tess's face and neck
reflected the same warmth, which each gem turned into
an Aldebaran or a Sirius—a constellation of white,
red, and green flashes, that interchanged their hues
with her every pulsation.
<br/>"Do you remember what we said to each other this
morning about telling our faults?" he asked abruptly,
finding that she still remained immovable. "We spoke
lightly perhaps, and you may well have done so. But
for me it was no light promise. I want to make a
confession to you, Love."
<br/>This, from him, so unexpectedly apposite, had the
effect upon her of a Providential interposition.
<br/>"You have to confess something?" she said quickly,
and even with gladness and relief.
<br/>"You did not expect it? Ah—you thought too highly of
me. Now listen. Put your head there, because I want
you to forgive me, and not to be indignant with me for
not telling you before, as perhaps I ought to have
<br/>How strange it was! He seemed to be her double.
She did not speak, and Clare went on—
<br/>"I did not mention it because I was afraid of
endangering my chance of you, darling, the great prize
of my life—my Fellowship I call you. My brother's
Fellowship was won at his college, mine at Talbothays
Dairy. Well, I would not risk it. I was going to tell
you a month ago—at the time you agreed to be mine, but
I could not; I thought it might frighten you away from
me. I put it off; then I thought I would tell you
yesterday, to give you a chance at least of escaping
me. But I did not. And I did not this morning, when
you proposed our confessing our faults on the
landing—the sinner that I was! But I must, now I see
you sitting there so solemnly. I wonder if you will
<br/>"O yes! I am sure that—"
<br/>"Well, I hope so. But wait a minute. You don't know.
To begin at the beginning. Though I imagine my poor
father fears that I am one of the eternally lost for my
doctrines, I am of course, a believer in good morals,
Tess, as much as you. I used to wish to be a teacher
of men, and it was a great disappointment to me when I
found I could not enter the Church. I admired
spotlessness, even though I could lay no claim to it,
and hated impurity, as I hope I do now. Whatever one
may think of plenary inspiration, one must heartily
subscribe to these words of Paul: 'Be thou an example—
in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in
faith, in purity.' It is the only safeguard for us
poor human beings. '<i>Integer vitae</i>,' says a
Roman poet, who is strange company for St Paul—
"The man of upright life, from frailties free,<br/>
Stands not in need of Moorish spear or bow.<br/>
"Well, a certain place is paved with good intentions,
and having felt all that so strongly, you will see what
a terrible remorse it bred in me when, in the midst of
my fine aims for other people, I myself fell."
<br/>He then told her of that time of his life to which
allusion has been made when, tossed about by doubts and
difficulties in London, like a cork on the waves, he
plunged into eight-and-forty hours' dissipation with a
<br/>"Happily I awoke almost immediately to a sense of my
folly," he continued. "I would have no more to say to
her, and I came home. I have never repeated the
offence. But I felt I should like to treat you with
perfect frankness and honour, and I could not do so
without telling this. Do you forgive me?"
<br/>She pressed his hand tightly for an answer.
<br/>"Then we will dismiss it at once and for ever!—too
painful as it is for the occasion—and talk of
<br/>"O, Angel—I am almost glad—because now <i>you</i> can
forgive <i>me</i>! I have not made my confession. I have a
confession, too—remember, I said so."
<br/>"Ah, to be sure! Now then for it, wicked little one."
<br/>"Perhaps, although you smile, it is as serious as
yours, or more so."
<br/>"It can hardly be more serious, dearest."
<br/>"It cannot—O no, it cannot!" She jumped up joyfully
at the hope. "No, it cannot be more serious,
certainly," she cried, "because 'tis just the same!
I will tell you now."
<br/>She sat down again.
<br/>Their hands were still joined. The ashes under the
grate were lit by the fire vertically, like a torrid
waste. Imagination might have beheld a Last Day
luridness in this red-coaled glow, which fell on his
face and hand, and on hers, peering into the loose hair
about her brow, and firing the delicate skin
underneath. A large shadow of her shape rose upon the
wall and ceiling. She bent forward, at which each
diamond on her neck gave a sinister wink like a toad's;
and pressing her forehead against his temple she
entered on her story of her acquaintance with Alec
d'Urberville and its results, murmuring the words
without flinching, and with her eyelids drooping down.
<h4>End of Phase the Fourth</h4>
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